Port-au-Prince: The head of Haiti`s voodoo religion appealed to authorities on Thursday to halt bloody lynchings of voodoo priests by people who blame them for causing the Caribbean country`s deadly cholera epidemic.
Since the epidemic started in mid-October, at least 45 male and female voodoo priests, known respectively as "houngan" and "manbo”, have been killed. Many of the victims were hacked to death and mutilated by machetes, Max Beauvoir, the "Ati" or supreme leader of Haitian voodoo, said.
"They are being blamed for using voodoo to contaminate people with cholera," Beauvoir said.
He said the killers accused voodoo priests of spreading cholera by scattering powder or casting "spells" and complained that local police and government officials were not doing enough to halt the lynchings and punish the killers. Voodoo is recognised and protected by the Constitution as one of Haiti`s main religions.
"My call is to the authorities so they can assume their responsibilities," said Beauvoir, who fears more attacks against voodoo devotees. Most of the lynchings occurred in the southwest of Haiti but also in the centre and the north.
Since emerging in central regions in October, the cholera epidemic has ripped through Haiti`s poor population, still traumatised from a January earthquake. It has killed well over 2,500 people and affected all of the nation`s 10 provinces.
Cholera is mainly spread by contaminated water and food.
As the epidemic death toll has risen, so too has popular fear and anger. Some Haitians have blamed Nepalese United Nations peacekeepers for bringing cholera to a Caribbean nation where the disease had been absent for decades.
The UN mission in Haiti maintains there is no conclusive evidence to back this accusation, despite a report by an expert contracted by the French government that linked the infection to latrines at the Nepalese camp located beside a river.
In November, there were anti-UN riots over the cholera, which continued to claim victims as the Western Hemisphere`s poorest state held elections marred by confusion and fraud charges. Final vote results have still not been announced.